Scaring Us is Not Enough

I recently read Stephen Asma’s ON MONSTERS: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY OF OUR WORST FEARS. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. Asma’s book not only provides a history of monsters, but discusses the reasons we need monsters; the role monsters play in society. While ON MONSTERS only covers monsters in western cultures, the concepts can be applied well beyond.

A few points stood out for me. I read ON MONSTERS while researching for the next book series I am planning, THE DRAGON WITHIN. We make something monstrous for a purpose. We create monsters to teach lessons. We create monsters to simplify real dangers. Think about Grimm’s Fairy Tales. We create monsters to create community. During war we vilify the enemy by turning them into monsters, dehumanizing them. It is easier for soldiers to kill a monster than another human.

How does this relate to literature? We write monsters not only to scare our readers, but to elicit  emotions. A good book, whether horror, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, romance, or literary should make us afraid. We should be afraid that the restless spirit will possess the child, the spaceship will blow up, the Orcs will slaughter the townsfolk, the world will be destroyed by nuclear war, the boy won’t get the girl, or the heroine will die alone. What causes our fear may be different, but in everything we read, fear is a key emotion that keeps us reading. But it isn’t  enough that a book evoke fear, it must make us care. We must care about the child, the people on the spaceship, the townsfolk, the world, the boy and girl, and the heroine. Fear without caring will not keep us reading. Caring without fear will not keep us reading. A good book balances the two emotions.

The Art of Disinformation

In my Serenity File series there is a government conspiracy. In developing the storyline I researched a variety of conspiracy theories. I read articles and books detailing the conspiracies, and I read articles and books debunking the theories. What I discovered was the Art of Disinformation.

What is Disinformation?

It is the art of intentionally hiding the truth. To some extent everyone engages in disinformation, although most people do it unknowingly. Every time someone exaggerates or leaves out information they are engaged in disinformation.

Have you ever interviewed a witness? Well, it is an interesting challenge. They will often leave out information they don’t think is important. Or they describe not what they saw, but their interpretation of what they saw. They may say that a suspect is tall, and to them he was, but in fact he may be of average height. They may have seen that the suspect’s hair was dark brown and made the assumption that the eyes were also brown, even if they could not really see them.

All of this is disinformation, but it is not the type of disinformation I am talking about today. Today I am talking about deliberate disinformation. The intentional hiding or confounding of the truth.

There are two key aspects to disinformation. The first is to remove or cast doubt on key evidence. The second is to offer alternative explanations.

Removing or Casting Doubt on Key Evidence

In the first case, you do not have to remove all the evidence, only enough so that more than one explanation fits the remaining evidence. There are several approaches depending on how much time and resources you have. To start, you may identify the evidence that is most easily refuted or destroyed. This will leave holes that people will naturally want to fill in. The second is to identify the most critical evidence. The more pivotal the piece of information that is missing the more alternative explanations that can be created and the weaker all explanations appear to be, including the real one.

Providing Alternative Explanations

The key here is to make the alternative explanation fit the evidence as well as the real story if not better. You can do this by supplying new evidence to support the alternative story. This can be done in a couple of ways. The first is to manufacture the evidence. This can be time consuming and expensive, but necessary if you need to convince individuals who will actually examine such evidence. When this is not the case, an alternative method is to simply reference evidence that does not actually exist. The majority of people will never check the validity of the statements made. If they read something that sounds reasonable and otherwise fits with the rest of the facts they will generally accept it. In this way new evidence can be introduced that a large number of people will accept without ever having to incur the cost of actually manufacturing it.

What About Those People Who Still Believe the Truth?

It doesn’t matter. The idea behind disinformation is that you don’t have to convince everyone. You only have to convince enough people to direct action your way. There will always be some people who know the truth. And some who suspect the truth. But most people only think they know the truth and are convinced everyone else is wrong.

What if the person who knows the truth is someone with great influence or power? There is actually a third factor that you can choose to employ. Discredit or cast doubt about the people who believe and are vocal about the real story. This can be done in a number of ways. You can attack their credibility directly by exposing information, secrets that would cause people to doubt their ability and/or honesty. If no dirt exists, then you can manufacture it. The secrets don’t need to be related to the cover up. There are certain things that, if exposed in the right way, will cause people to doubt someone: drug or alcohol abuse, extramarital affairs, deviant sexual behavior. Notice my choice of words. I could have said drug or alcohol use, infidelity, alternative sexual preferences. These last descriptions are not as emotionally loaded so they would not have as much impact.

It sounds like disinformation is indeed an art. Much like writing.


I am Cyana Britt Allen and this is my blog.   Please be patient as I am new to this. I am an author, as yet unpublished.   I am currently seeking an agent for my first novel,  The Serenity File.


Everything is proceeding as expected for Homeland Security agent Michael Hawke until a freak accident nearly kills his only lead; in fact would have killed his only lead if Dr. Serenity Crowe hadn’t intervened.

According to preliminary reports Dr. Crowe was a child prodigy raised in the foster care system and could heal by touch at age three. This doesn’t explain why she was driving alone on a desolate mountain highway at 3:00am or how she knew to stop precisely where the suspect had driven over the side.

Michael isn’t prepared for the transformation he undergoes while investigating Dr. Crowe. Can he accept his ability to read and create emotions in others, complete his investigation, protect the country he loves, and not let his fellow team members down as the strange link between him and Dr. Crowe grows?

THE SERENITY FILE is a 123,000 word urban fantasy and the first book in a series that explores how unique individuals with extraordinary abilities struggle to find a place in a society that manipulates, punishes, and often destroys those who are different.

You can visit my website at